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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Electronics | Battery Power
Living with Battery-power


In my normal operating of my layout, I notice no difference, except that it takes less time to get the layout up and running, and that I have no more stalling or dirty-track issues.
(external link: Darby Marriott's Consisting with S-CAB)

At the club's public train shows (see photo, taken by my wife of me holding the S-CAB throttle (set to "24") along with fellow club members Jerry to my right and Don in the background), I have found that there are only three issues. One, is the obvious one: running out of battery juice. This only happens if I have my train running continuously throughout a show, or if I use one of the smaller engines which had to have the smaller battery installed. My solution is to either stop running my trains, or I bring a second engine. For two-day shows, I have to bring my engines home at night to let them charge overnight.

Second, when the club's layout shuts down due to a derailment or some other short, all engines on that same booster district stop. However, my engine is battery-powered, so it just keeps going. So, if I am talking to an audience member or am temporarily distracted, rear-end crashes, or a lot of club members yelling, ensues.

Along those same lines is the fact that one of the club members built a module that includes a bridge, thereby allowing us to walk into and out of the layout without having to crawl on our hands and knees. He built it such that the last foot of track before the bridge looses its power when the bridge is raised. Again, with a battery-powered engine, this is meaningless, so I had to be very mindful of that.

The third issue is one that I have only experienced one time. Neil Stanton warns against this, but up until a World's Greatest Hobby show here in Houston, Texas in February 2018, I had never experienced it. That is, there might be some interference. I had stopped running my battery-powered train, and parked it in the freight yard of the club's layout. I then went for a walk to go see the rest of the show. Upon my return, several club members mentioned that my train started to run all of a sudden, and they had to quickly figure out how to stop the engine using the S-CAB throttle. Of course, trying to figure out what was the cause of this interference in a large show that has many clubs operating nearby was just impossible. One of the clubs nearby was the local G-gaugers club, several of whose members have the CVP T5000 throttle to operate their battery-powered G-scale locomotives, but they have never been a problem before. At home I have certainly never experienced this kind of interference.

What I see is that the radio-control/battery-power solution trades off more complicated layout wiring for more involved locomotive work. It also trades off having to deal with rail contact issues for dealing with battery charge-holding issues. For me, battery-powered engines wins hands-down! Battery-powered engines can be run on stand-alone dioramas, used to test track, and make painting and cleaning wheels much easier (no need for a complicated/expensive powered stand).

At home I have gotten into the habit of charging my engines every three months, just to keep the batteries fresh. I am no longer actively involved in the local club, so I don't run my engines as much as I used to. The bottom line is that charging my engines is not a big deal. It is only slightly more involved than charging a cell phone. Not at all an inconvenience, considering I don't have to clean or wire my track anymore.